Friday 21 December 2012

The Shortest Day (Thank goodness)

Wishing you all a Happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year. It's amazing and slightly scary that a year can have passed by so quickly since I wished you all the best in December 2011.

 It has been a pretty intensive year pottery wise.  I took on perhaps too much, and with no long balmy summer days it was hard to find an excuse to stop for long. So I'm actually looking forward to a short break over Christmas to recharge my batteries. The turn of the year always feels like a new beginning and I am looking forward to starting a completely new batch of work in January. I still have an order for two tables which will be great to getting going on.

This week I managed to glaze and pack both kilns so tomorrow fingers crossed I should have my orders finished.

The week was rather complicated with Rodger ending up in hospital with a weird fever, probably a virus, and he's still stuck there while they conduct loads of tests. Without my Mr Fixit to hand for advice I was scuppered when the  tiny test kiln in which I was trying to fast fire a couple of pots (which needed to catch the Christmas post), started sparking alarmingly. (This one won't make it, so sorry)!

Then to crown it all I managed to pick up the winter norovirus bug (probably from the hospital which is struggling with it), so Christmas has truly gone pear shaped! . But so far the world hasn't ended and a new beginning is just around the corner. Besides which it has given me an excuse to sit down, still feeling a little wobbly, and write a post.  However I am still quite happy it's going to be the shortest day!

This is the other owl dish. I do like his colours, I will have to remember that combination. But did I write it down?

I had this off cut from the first flow through the extruder when the clay is still settling down and splitting. What a lovely tree it made. despite a slight panic over whether the thing will settle into a good flow, I really love these first lengths and always save them for something special.

Thursday 13 December 2012

Polar bear jugs and fluffy clouds

That's it - all my slip decorating this side of Christmas is finished.  Now I just need to get everything  dried out and into the kiln over the weekend for a glaze firing next week. In the 'Feral Choir' we have been singing lots of cold wintery songs, maybe this was what made me in a Polar bearish sort of mood. Actually these poor jugs were abandoned for way too long as other priorities took over. I had them in the outside damp cupboard (an old fridge - not on of course), but then forgot to bring them in one very frosty night. I lost three of them, it was quite interesting how the ice got into the leather hard clay and split them open.

There are four large name plaques drying out too. One poor person has been waiting nearly a year, but hey - they are on their way at last.

I started to pack the bisc this afternoon. I got the monster cellist dish in, just, after a few experiments At least I could squeeze a few other pots under the slant as well, and hopefully she will have shrunk sufficiently so that by the time I glaze her I can actually close the kiln door with her on a flat shelf.

There are now a whole troop of squirrels using our feeder. What a joy to watch them. The cats just stare in amazement, usually through the window,

then go back to sleep.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

A Shining Angel and other Seasonal Pots

I'm taking my finished work along to The MGill Duncan Gallery for their Winter Exhibition which opens on Saturday. Pretty much everything I made for it came out of the kiln this week. I was a little nervous unpacking as there was a lot of new shapes and colours, and I was rather unsure how they would turn out. I was mostly pretty happy with the firing.

The Angel shines out of her dish pretty much as I had hoped she might.

The guinea fowl was bold and the background not too dull.

I was pleased with the colours on this owl too.

.....And the penguins all seem quite happy. The King and Queen party penguins are finished,

and the Party trio behaved themselves too.

There were quite a few of the tiny penguins too. This is a Happy Glutton

And here are some revellers. Come along to McGill Duncan and meet them and their friends if you can.

Friday 16 November 2012

The Lonely Glutton and other Penguins

It's that penguin time of year again. I have been making candle holders for the Winter Exhibition at The McGill Duncan Gallery. These penguins are thrown as hollows and therefore do interesting things when I bend them. Usually this makes them even fatter, an aspect which goes well with a Christmas feasting theme.  The party hats on this pair inadvertently turned them into a Henry Moore-ish King and Queen, so I just went along with that. (These photos are of them 'in progress' with only half the slip on - their bench will eventually also be white).

I enjoyed myself giving them titles. This one is The Lonely Glutton. 

These three sit on a thrown doughnut. The bending process informs their characters, the chest on the one on the left turns her into, well, a HER, and quite a comfortable middle aged kindly kind of Her at that I should imagine.

I'm not sure whether these two are chums are enjoying a good mug of ale or whether I should call them Amorous Wassailers. 

Glazed and not looking forward to the heat of the kiln.

It was glazing all week. The dishes are very time consuming to decorate, I paint black wax lines then trail the coloured glaze, wax out and dip them in a transparent gloss. I thought that I would get them finished last night but I forgot how much glaze is needed just to do a good dip. Then I forgot how much faff is involved in mixing up a big batch of glaze, and how much mess there is to clear up at he end of it all!

The Monster Dishes from the last post have had to be put on hold. Oh yes, Christine got her calculations wrong again, (over ambitious as usual), and they are just a TINY bit too long for the kiln. I fear that I will have to use the old slanted kiln shelf solution, but it is ridiculous just how much of an angle you need just to accomodate that tiny miscalculation of HALF a centimetre!

We have had a treat. At last a squirrel has found our feeder. Tempted by the batch of wild hazelnuts we collected. I have never thought before about how squirrels use their tails as umbrellas.

But despite that the little fellow decided that actually, perhaps just getting right inside the box was the best way to keep dry.

Too fat now to get out again?

Sunday 21 October 2012

October's Monster Dishes

I've had a good couple of weeks.  Most of September  was taken up with catching up on my throwing, and getting down to a few outstanding and rather random orders (- a mug with particular cat on it and such like). All fine, but not really making me jump out of bed with excitement.

The extruding experimentation of last month had thrown up one interesting profile and I have kept the sections under polythene waiting for a space to play about with them. They needed to be caught before they got too hard, (so a selection of thrown name plaques have been put back on one side to keep damp for a bit longer - sorry folks).

What I have really enjoyed has been shaping the edge with added coils. I had forgotten how much I used to make with coils and they seemed like an old and familiar friend.

I took some photos of these at the damp clay stage when they are rather luscious, but then discovered that I didn't have a card in the camera, so these images of them are when I have marked out a design and sprayed several layers of background slip colours.

I do love the scale of them. Possibly somewhere in the back of my mind were those wonderful carved wooden vessels which had delighted me on my recent trip to the British museum.

But not everyone is going to be have a need or place for a monster dish, so I have scaled down the profile and am now working on a series of smaller, but similar in feel, ' fruit dish' size versions.

It's good to be working on something completely new again, albeit with several deadlines still looming but nothing like the pressure of the first half of the year.  Now I am underway I feel much more energised and looking forward to the approaching winter to take stock and replenish my creative batteries.

Saturday 15 September 2012

Fierce and Fiercer make the 500

A rather smart hardback book arrived through the post the other day, courtesy of Lark Books. I had been told that there was probably going to be an image of mine in it, and very nice indeed it was to find that Fierce Dog and Even Fiercer Dog had been included. The book features quite a wide variety of ceramics, being a selection from the 500 series over the last decade. As usual, it is beautifully laid out with a clear page for each piece.

A lot of thought has gone into each page set - my Fierce dogs with their spots has been pleasingly placed opposite that spotty glaze. Very nice, and thank you Lark books. In fairness to them I should tell you that you can buy it here from Amazon.

 I can't believe that August has come and gone and we are now nearly half way through September. What happened?! After Potfest in the Park I had promised myself that I would slow down just a little.

It wasn't THAT much of a slow down though, I had to get started pretty well straight away on the Hardrock Challenge prizes. They asked for tankard shape this year. I quite enjoy making them, it's just fitting them in over a busy summer period that is always a bit of a thought.

I struggled with the new shape for a while, it had to take the design which had sat happily on the previous tall shaped mug. I think that I found one which seemed to fit the bill after a few rather dodgy first attempts. These came out of the kiln this week along with a few other orders. A second batch is still to get through a glaze kiln, but it should all be in the bag now.

I did mange a short break away, a totally absorbing weekend on a conga drumming course, followed by a couple of days in London. I haven't been to London for a few years and I felt like a total country bumpkin until I remembered how to negotiate the transport system again. I made a point of visiting the CPA shop in it's new setting opposite the British Museum. It was hard to find, with a very narrow frontage and I was a bit disappointed at it's size and narrow layout.  But of course I then couldn't resist visiting the museum and soon became lost amongst the treasures.

 I loved this Algerian Berber dish with it's bold and asymmetrical red and white design.

 And what a dear little dog ( I think, from the Solomon Islands). Wood, with inlaid shells.


The other pre-occupation over the past month has been trying to get the 'Captain' to work. We got this vertical pugmill from Glasgow School of Art and had hoped to be able to use it as an extruder. It has been much more difficult than we had hoped. In the initial tests the clay would start to flow and then get stuck.  It appeared that the 0.75 hp vertical pugmill, while being a scaled up version of our small one, was proportionally still not powerful enough to push the clay through a 90° bend and the wider die. There was just too much back pressure. 

Rodger set to and built a bench so that we could try it in a horizontal plane and use the expansion box without the bend. Even then the clay kept getting stuck.

The next experiments are to reduce the capacity of the expansion box, but it all makes me think that our little pugmill must be a five star block buster of a machine.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

The Pilgrimage to Potfest in the Park

 Potfest in the Park was once again a really enjoyable show. We are so well looked after by the Cox's, who seem super human in their organisational abilities. Considering the summer we are having the weather wasn't too bad really, well actually, it was pretty cold, but then again I did bring July clothes instead of January ones. Silly mistake.... ! Despite weather and the Olympics the visitors faithfully turned out making it a successful show.

The piece I made for the Potfest competition was 'Terracotta Tours'. The theme this year was 'A Journey or Pilgrimage'. It is a great excuse to have some fun and as usual I got a bit carried away. But I was not the only one, there were some really good and imaginative entries. 'T T' was honoured with the Public Prize, possibly due to the number of children who were loving following it's route. 

I was pushing it to get it finished in time, and as a result the road sections cracked horribly, hence the need to throw a handful of traffic cones to warn of the hazards. The bus itself was steam drying in a cooling kiln for 12 hours over the weekend before the show. It is a miracle it survived really!

Here is a lovely picture of my friend from Corsham days, Sue Dunne whose good company I had this year, the first time she has come to The Park, and her stall looked great. 

I was trying very hard not to be tempted by some of the delicious pots around, but I did succumb to one of Guy Routledge's face plates. They were on the opposite side of the courtyard of marquees and talked to me all weekend.

The only mishap of the weekend was Rodger getting his finger trapped in the car door. Pretty painful and not great for packing up. Ouch!  

Sunday 22 July 2012

'Potfest' - the ceramic alternative to London 2012

For those who would like an alternative to staying at home watching Olympic games, come and have a grand day out at Potfest in the Park next weekend ( Fri, Sat and Sunday). Why settle for a few sheep in a stadium and some pretend rain, when you can get the real thing in Cumbria with some excellent ceramics thrown in?
This is a great event, in the grounds of Hutton in the Forest Country House, showing some exceptionally good pots from Britain, Europe and beyond. Teas, ices and some live music to add to the festive atmosphere.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

The Summer that isn't, the piece that hasn't and the trouble with trousers

The extraordinary wet drab weather continues on and on. A couple of weeks ago a group of friends climbed Merrick in the Galloway hills.  This was the view from the top.

Then by some miracle the dense cloud lifted momentarily, enough to catch a glimpse of the views. 

Here north towards Loch Doon.

Meanwhile in the workshop I seem to have been extraordinarily busy not getting on very fast with anything! I can't blame interruptions as there have been an almost eerie lack of visitors to the showroom, (is that the weather, the recession)? 

I should be making more useful things like mugs and bowls for the summer visitors, that is if they DO come, not to mention some rather overdue orders, but as usual I have become a little too absorbed in making my Potfest competition piece. 

This has taken a few strange turns and twists since the initial idea. What is it? Will it fly? Has it even decided what it is at all?

 And what are those strange conical pawn like objects? Answers on a postcard please and the winner gets a, erm, well what about a Spring Fling penguin!

 Timbalada has decided that the dusty, waiting-to-be-cleaned-up Spray booth is a good place to sleep. Ha, found you, now what colour would you like to be sprayed? She looks a little worried.

 But she turned out perfectly as usual.

On Monday morning, after the cones had bent in my kiln, I decided that I really did need desperately to get off the premises and have a change of scene. Apart from the expedition up Merrick I have hardly been out of the workshop for days on end. As is becoming boringly usual it wasn’t great weather so I decided to take the day return to Carlisle and buy myself some long needed new trousers. 

Now my perfect trousers would be baggy, comfortable with lots of pockets and hopefully made of some nice interesting coloured soft yet sturdy material - not that I am not fussy, not at all !

But what is it about modern trousers. Huge wide waists which aren't actually where ones waist is anyway, tight bums, narrow ankles, no pockets.  Then I became aware that everyone I saw walking down the street looked like their trousers didn't fit properly anyway - because they don't MAKE trousers for human beings at all. Oh well, it's the fabric shop and the old sewing machine for me. AFTER Potfest that is.